Speed Reads

age of deception

Merriam-Webster picks 'gaslighting' as the 2022 word of the year

Merriam-Webster chose "gaslighting" as the 2022 word of the year, linking its recent boost in popularity with the current "age of misinformation," The Associated Press reports. 

The dictionary company says in the era of "fake news, conspiracy theories, Twitter trolls, and deep fakes," the word has emerged as the most popular term of the year. Searches for the word on Merriam-Webster's website increased a whopping 1,740 percent in 2022 compared to last year. Surges in searches for the word of the year are usually tied to an event causing a spike in curiosity. However, this year, no single event led to increased searches for "gaslighting." 

"It was a word looked up frequently every single day of the year," Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster's editor at large, told AP.

Merriam-Webster calls the term "a driver of disorientation and mistrust," defining it as "the act or practice of grossly misleading someone, especially for one's advantage." The word's origin can be traced back to Patrick Hamilton's 1938 play, Gas Light, in which a man tries to convince his wife she is insane. In the 20th century, the company defined the word as the "psychological manipulation of a person" over time, causing them to "question the validity of their thoughts."

"In recent years, with the vast increase in channels and technologies used to mislead, gaslighting has become the favored word for the perception of deception," the company writes. "This is why (trust us!) it has earned its place as our Word of the Year."